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If two things are quite similar, you can say that one thing is not very/much different from the other.

If two things are alike, you can say that one thing is no different from the other. Don't say that one thing is ‘not different’ from another.

https://www.wordreference.com/EnglishUsage/different

What grammar issue the author trying to convey here?

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    Just that no different from is idiomatic and not different from is not. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 10:07
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    @KateBunting I would not say that it is unidiomatic to say “not different” generally, at least it is not in the U.S. In the context of using the phrase “no different,” preferring “no different” over “not different” is a matter of preferring a non-ambiguous phrase over an ambiguous one. Would you really say “The supreme legislative body in the U.K is no different from the British Parliament,” or would you say “not different.” Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 13:55
  • Of course you can "say" not different: This car is not different from that car. This car is no different than that car. Same thing. The semantic difference between them is zero.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 13:59
  • If you run an NGram query for the search string is no different * that (actual link being too long to fit into a comment here), you'll see that This is no different from that is by far the most common preposition (but than and to also occur relatively often). Note that This is [no] different in that... is a completely different construction (which will be followed by a clause explicitly identifying why something is [not] different to something else). Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:08
  • The Times Literary Supplement, British economist: True, some of the historical analogies are tendentious: he likes to repeat the argument he first put forward in Sapiens that theological fictions are not different from the fictions involved in the creation of corporations google.com/… And it would mean the same thing with: are no different than
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:21

1 Answer 1

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This is not grammar, but about received British usage.

The topic is negating the word “different” to indicate similarity.

A is not too different from B.

That sentence clearly indicates that A and B are different. We are discussing the degree of difference between two distinguishable things.

A is not different from B

is ambiguous. It may mean that A is B; that two different names refer to the same thing. Or it may mean that two distinct things are similar in all relevant respects. The source is saying to avoid a locution that has an ambiguous meaning. Notice that this comes up in the context of the phrase “no different,” which is an idiom that unambiguously means that what are being compared are distinct but similar in all relevant respects.

Jack is no different than any other child his age

does not mean that every child has the same eye color, the same hair color, the same sex, etc. It implies some attribute that is shared by all children of that age.

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  • I'm scratching my head about your mentioning received British usage.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 13:53
  • @Lambie Did you look at the source? It explicitly states “usage,” and its one reference to U.S. usage comes after British usage. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:02
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    Yes, it says (among other things) that the British use "different to" and Americans use "different from" and I don't buy it. Sorry.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:07
  • What don’t you buy? Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:08
  • What I is just said. That the British use different to where the Americans use different from.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:11

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